The Children's Book

A. S. Byatt, Author . Knopf $26.95 (688p) ISBN 978-0-307-27209-6

Byatt's overstuffed latest wanders from Victorian 1895 through the end of WWI, alighting on subjects as diverse as puppetry, socialism, women's suffrage and the Boer War, and suffers from an unaccountably large cast. The narrative centers on two deeply troubled families of the British artistic intelligentsia: the Fludds and the Wellwoods. Olive Wellwood, the matriarch, is an author of children's books, and their darkness hints at hidden family miseries. The Fludds' secrets are never completely exposed, but the suicidal fits of the father, a celebrated potter, and the disengaged sadness of the mother and children add up to a chilling family history. Byatt's interest in these artists lies with the pain their work indirectly causes their loved ones and the darkness their creations conceal and reveal. The other strongest thread in the story is sex; though the characters' social consciences tend toward the progressive, each of the characters' liaisons are damaging, turning high-minded talk into sinister predation. The novel's moments of magic and humanity, malignant as they may be, are too often interrupted by information dumps that show off Byatt's extensive research. Buried somewhere in here is a fine novel. (Oct.)

Reviewed on: 06/08/2009
Release date: 10/01/2009
Genre: Fiction
Hardcover - 617 pages - 978-0-307-39807-9
Open Ebook - 515 pages - 978-0-307-27295-9
Ebook - 978-0-307-37383-0
Downloadable Audio - 978-0-307-70282-1
Paperback - 624 pages - 978-0-307-39808-6
Paperback - 883 pages - 978-0-307-47306-6
Compact Disc - 978-0-307-57752-8
Hardcover - 617 pages - 978-0-7011-8389-9
Paperback - 624 pages - 978-0-7011-8390-5
Open Ebook - 624 pages - 978-1-4090-7723-7
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Audio book sample courtesy of Penguin Random House Audio
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